I was at Internet World yesterday, which was packed.
Things didn’t start well when he realised that what he was about to present to his audience of approximately seventy-five delegates was not what we had been promised on the program.
Most of us did stay, though, to hear what he had to say about organic search engine optimisation, even though we were actually expecting a talk about paid for, or pay per click (PPC) SEO.
It was quite reassuring for me because Hugh said to us all the things which I say to my clients, so that was helpful. He stressed the importance of site structure, analysis of competitors’ selection of keywords and phrases, and inbound links, and he warned us that inbound links should be as natural as possible otherwise Google will get suspicious. He spent quite a lot of time demonstrating how the use of social media can be very helpful in driving people to your site, and he also spent time on the need not only for the site to have great content but also to have great design.
He then said that, in his experience, site visitors assess a website in no more than ten seconds before deciding whether to stay or go.
The figure usually quoted is up to thirty seconds, so this, for me was news. I don’t disbelieve it. I simply had been happy to accept up to thirty seconds as being good enough.
Well, if he’s right, straightforward old-fashioned art direction is going to be critical for the ability of a landing page to have and to hold the attention of a site visitor. The experience of looking at a Welcome page has always seemed to me to be very much like looking at a book cover. People do most certainly judge a book by its cover, and for good reason. Publishers put a lot of effort into the design of the cover.
And think about how we read people. The moment someone steps out of a lift for a job interview, the interviewer has a very good idea of what sort a person the interviewee is.
It’s easy to start an interview well but end it badly.
It is almost impossible to start an interview badly but end it well.
And this applies equally to a website. A site visitor uses the Welcome page to read the website just as we assess a book by its cover. That’s why it only takes 10 seconds max.
The corollary is that graphic designers and art directors are just as important as programmers, SEO experts, Google specialists, links strategists and all round geeks.
And that, in turn, means that communication agencies need both old and new skills to hold the interest of site visitors. It is ridiculous to claim that one is more important than the other.
Finally, if you read this, Hugh, give me your email address, please, and I’ll send you a picture of George Bernard Shaw.